BC’s best holiday-themed craft beers

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      By Joe Wiebe

      The days may be getting shorter, but at least there are lots of holiday lights to brighten the rainy winter nights. And as a complement to all the decorations and festivities, many of British Columbia’s craft breweries are releasing special holiday-themed beers.

      Some of these are darker and stronger, and they often showcase baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla, or rich flavours like chocolate, hazelnut, and coffee. They’re great options to serve at a holiday party or as part of a special meal—or for you to enjoy in front of the TV yule log while wrapping presents.

      Here are some of the best holiday- and winter-themed craft beers available in BC.

      Czech Dark Lager (five per cent ABV) from Barnside Brewing (Delta)

      This rich and malty black beer is brewed in true Czech tradition, featuring 50 per cent premium malts from Czechia and 50 per cent Barnside’s own Munich malt. It’s hopped assertively using Barnside’s own sterling hops from right across the street.

      The Grinch (6.5 per cent ABV) from Bridge Brewing (North Vancouver)

      This popular winter ale is a robust porter spiced delicately with cinnamon, vanilla, and oak. The fun holiday-themed packaging makes it an ideal stocking stuffer or secret Santa gift.

      Anno 2023 (8.5 per cent ABV) by Dageraad Brewing (Burnaby)

      This special holiday brew has become an annual tradition in many beer lovers’ households. Made with Okanagan pears, coriander, and brettanomyces, this Belgian Strong Golden Ale can be enjoyed with a holiday meal, as an able substitute for sparkling wine on new year’s, or just on a winter evening shared with loved ones. Dageraad also offers several mixed holiday sets, including Anno 4-Year Vintage packs. 

      Black Mammoth Winter Ale (eight per cent ABV) from Fernie Brewing (Fernie)

      First released 10 years ago for the brewery’s 10th anniversary, this deliciously dark wintry brew is made with additions of chocolate malt and dark organic cocoa, then aged on oak for added smoothness and complexity.

      Gratitude (nine per cent ABV) by Hoyne Brewing (Victoria)

      Sean Hoyne makes this special beer each winter as a way to say thanks to everyone in the community. A style of beer that reaches back to the 15th century, this winter warmer is best shared with friends or family. This year, for the first time, it is available in cans as well as 650-millilitre bottles.

      The Birds Barrel-Aged Black Forest Pastry Stout (9.5 per cent ABV) by The Parkside Brewery (Port Moody)

      This silky and smooth imperial stout was aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and features Black Forest pastry notes of dark cherry and chocolate in a warming whisky finish.

      Blitzen (nine per cent ABV) by Steamworks Brewing (Burnaby)

      Brewed following the traditions of Belgian abbey ales, Blitzen is a classic Belgian-style tripel with lingering, snow-white foam lacing the glass, a delightful ester profile of candied fruit and subtle baking spice, and the refreshing spritz of high carbonation.

      Smoked Honey Doppelbock (7.9 per cent ABV) by Steel & Oak Brewing Co. (New Westminster)

      A doppelbock is a classic winter lager with a complex flavour profile. Steel & Oak augments the typical German recipe with a gentle smokiness from beechwood-smoked malt, followed by a subtle sweetness derived from locally-sourced honey. After lagering for eight long weeks, the resulting beer has a rich and velvety texture.

      Krampus (8.5 per cent ABV) by Strange Fellows Brewing (Vancouver)

      A Belgian-style abbey dubbel brewed with candied sugar and dark malts, this tasty dark ale is rich with the flavours of dried stone fruits, subtle toffee, and spice.

      Hermannator Ice Bock (9.5 per cent ABV) by Vancouver Island Brewing (Victoria)

      A legendary seasonal brew born in 1987, this full-bodied and velvety eisbock is aged for three months in subzero conditions, resulting in rich notes of chocolate, coffee, and brandied plums. If you’ve never tasted Hermannator before, now is the time—Vancouver Island Brewing will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2024.

      Holiday mixed packs

      These are great for trying a little of everything. Here are two of my favourites.

      Holiday Mix Pack from Moody Ales & Co. (Port Moody):

      • Eggnog Cream Ale (eight per cent ABV)
      • Gingerbread Ale (5.5 per cent ABV)
      • O Christmas Tree IPA (six per cent ABV)
      • Holiday Party Punch Sour (seven per cent ABV)

      Naughty & Nice Mix Pack by Parallel 49 Brewing (Vancouver)

      • Ziegebock Helles Bock (6.4 per cent ABV)
      • Old Boy Cream Ale (five per cent ABV )
      • Natcrucker Blackcurrant Belgian Ale (5.4 per cent ABV)
      • Lil’ Imp Cold IPA (6.7 per cent ABV)

      Looking for other ways to shop local and find gifts for the beer lover in your life? Most breweries sell gift cards, branded merchandise or glassware, or beer-themed gift packs. Some even put together advent calendar-style mixed boxes. Highly giftable, and meant to be shared: a win-win.

      Joe Wiebe writes a blog for the BC Ale Trail. For a Santa-sized list featuring more than 60 holiday beers from all over BC, click here.